19.IV.2005 (Election) - 28.II.2013 (Unexpected Resignation) – 31.XII.2022 (Death)
January 2023, Winnipeg: At press time December 31, 2022, the world received with sorrow the news that Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI – the 265th Pope of the Catholic Church – passed away this day at 9:34 AM Rome time in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican at the age of 95.
Upon hearing of the world-breaking news, I visited the Holy See website, scanned the news, and was delighted to read his Holiness’ 1) First Greeting to the thousands of the faithful gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica on April 19, 2005 upon his election as Pope, and 2) Farewell Address to the eminent Cardinals gathered at Clementine Hall on February 28, 2013, following his unexpected resignation for reasons of age and health-related concerns. I have quoted extensively from his First Greeting and Farewell Address for a fuller appreciation by CFNet readers of Pope Benedict XVI’s theological wisdom and pontifical humility throughout his priesthood and papacy.
- First Greeting to the faithful on April 19, 2005
“Dear Brothers and Sisters: After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me…Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help.
- Farewell Address to the College of Cardinals on February 28, 2013
“Venerable and Dear Brothers:…I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano who, as always, interpreted the sentiments of the entire College (of Cardinals): Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaks to heart]. I warmly thank you, Your Eminence.
And I would like to say … that for me, too, it has been a joy to walk with you in these years, in the light of the presence of the Risen Lord.… your closeness and your advice have been of great help to me in my ministry. In these eight years we have lived with faith very beautiful moments of radiant light on the Church’s journey, as well as moments when several clouds gathered in the sky.
We sought to serve Christ and his Church with profound and total love, which is the heart and soul of our ministry. We gave hope, the hope that comes to us from Christ, which alone can give light to us on our journey. Together we …pray to him to help us to grow even more in this profound unity, so that the College of Cardinals may be like an orchestra where differences — an expression of the universal Church — contribute to a superior and harmonious concord.
I would like to leave you a simple thought, which is deep in my heart: a thought about the Church, about her mystery, that constitutes for us all … the reason and passion for life.
I will allow a sentence of Romano Guardini …(who) says the Church “is not an institution conceived and built in theory... but a living reality… She lives through the course of time, becoming, like every living being, undergoing change… And yet in her nature, she remains ever the same and her heart is Christ”.
It seems to me that this was our experience yesterday…seeing that the Church is a living body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit and which is really brought to life by God’s power. She is in the world but not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. That is why Guardini's other famous saying is both true and eloquent: “The Church is reawakened in souls”. The Church is alive, she grows and is reawakened in souls who — like the Virgin Mary — welcome the Word of God and conceive it through the action of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh. It is precisely in their poverty and humility that they become capable of begetting Christ in the world today. Through the Church… Christ continues to walk through the epochs and in all places.
Let us stay united, dear Brothers, in this Mystery: in prayer, especially in the daily Eucharist, and in this way we shall serve the Church and the whole of humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.
Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For this reason, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.”
These, indeed, are words of profound theological wisdom and humility. They touch the minds and hearts of many.
I would also like to share below further notes from the article, “Benedict XVI—Priest, Prefect, Pope, Rest In Peace,” by Rome correspondent Edward Pentin and Senior Editor Joan Frawley Desmond of the National Catholic Register:
“Those who knew Joseph Ratzinger well… regarded him as a gentle and modest man of the Church who was blessed with a scholarly encyclopedic mind and defended the truths of the faith with clarity and power, ” wrote Pentin and Desmond.
“Pope Benedict was a prophet, unafraid to challenge the perils and emptiness rampant in a world that had thrown aside the Truth revealed by God and nature and capitulated to the worship of self,” Pentin and Desmond quoted Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York..
The Rome correspondent and senior editor summed up Pope Emeritus’ characteristic humility about his mission, using his own words: “One has to make do with what time one has. I was conscious that my task was of another kind: that I must try above all else to show what faith means in the contemporary world, and further, to highlight the centrality of faith in God, and give people the courage to have faith, courage to live concretely in the world with faith.”
Joseph Ratzinger – Benedict XVI’s secular name – was born on Holy Saturday, April 16, 1927, in Bavaria and was the youngest of three children. Their father was a policeman and mother was a hotel cook. His brother was also a priest. He entered seminary at age 12, but interrupted by World War II. Ultimately, he was ordained in 1951 and earned a doctorate in theology at the University of Munich in 1957. His intellectual gifts as a theologian brought him to serve as theological expert (peritus) at the Second Vatican Council. In that role, he influenced immensely the development of the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. As an invited lecturer at the University of Tubingen, he celebrated Mass before beginning every lecture to send the message to students that they “should speak with God before they spoke about Him.”
At age 50 in 1977, Pope Paul VI named Father Ratzinger archbishop of Munich and Freising, promptly elevated him to cardinal shortly after, and appointed him four years later Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He became one of Pope John Paul’s closest advisers until his death in 2005.
On the first day of the Cardinal conclave – April 18, Cardinal Ratzinger delivered a homily that warned of a “dictatorship …whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires” … (and argued) that “the most powerful antidote to this tyranny is a friendship with Christ” … “a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false.” The following day saw him elected Pope at the age of 78. Cardinal Ratzinger had been transformed to Pope Benedict XVI.
What I found most memorable in Pentin’s and Desmond’s essay was the concluding part, Preparing for Final Judgment. It relates to Benedict XVI’s letter in response to the report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising and reflects his humility and equanimity. He began: “Even though I served as Archbishop of Munich and Freising for a little less than five years, I continue to feel very much a part of the Archdiocese of Munich and to consider it home.
Then he concluded: “Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life. Even though, as I look back on my long life, I can have a great reason for fear and trembling, I am nonetheless of good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate, my “Paraclete”. In light of the hour of judgment, the grace of being a Christian becomes all the more clear to me. It grants me knowledge, and indeed friendship, with the judge of my life, and thus allows me to pass confidently through the dark door of death. In this regard, I am constantly reminded of what John tells us at the beginning of the Apocalypse: he sees the Son of Man in all his grandeur and falls at his feet as though dead. Yet He, placing his right hand on him, says to him: “Do not be afraid! It is I…”
Rest In Peace Pope Benedict XVI.